WASHINGTON — With the nation no longer in a "vicious recession," President Barack Obama called for major tax changes for the benefit of middle class families struggling with stagnant wages as they try to put their children through college and save for retirement.

WASHINGTON — With the nation no longer in a "vicious recession," President Barack Obama called for major tax changes for the benefit of middle class families struggling with stagnant wages as they try to put their children through college and save for retirement.


"At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come," Obama said.


At the heart of his proposal is a tax reform proposal that was recently unveiled ahead of the State of the Union Address that would increase taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to pay for reductions in taxes paid by middle class families — providing annual tax credits of: $500 for families where both parents work, $3,000 for child care for children under age 5, and up to $2,500 toward completing a college degree.


Obama, who is in the final two years of his presidency, is facing a Congress where Republicans now control the House and Senate. Winning any legislative victories on longtime Democratic tax proposals could prove a difficult task.


Within the Arkansas delegation, there appears to be little appetite for the tax proposals supported by Obama.


"The tone the president struck tonight seems to indicate that he is focused on what he wants, not what the American people want," said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. "Tax reform is a perfect example of an issue that the American people are calling on Washington to address, where we can indeed find common ground, and instead the president proposes more of the same rate hikes that failed time and time again."


Boozman said Republicans want "true reform" that would result in a fairer and simpler tax code, reducing the burden for working Americans.


"The president speaks about helping middle class, but his proposals create a bigger burden on working Americans. For instance, he proposes paying for his community college plan by taxing savings accounts that middle-class families rely on to fund higher education for their own children. It’s not free as he claims, it certainly doesn’t help the middle class and I don’t expect it to move forward," he said.


Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., offered a similar view.


"The policies and ideas he put forth are from the same tax and spend playbook he’s been using for the last six years. Unfortunately, his strategy has made the lives of hard-working Americans more difficult with fewer jobs and lower wages," Cotton said. "It’s difficult to understand how President Obama doesn’t see that Arkansans don’t want — and can’t afford — more of the same failed policies. They want an efficient, accountable government that can do more with less."


White House officials understands that the tax proposals face an uphill battle with Republicans in Congress and expect the president will continue to speak directly to the American public to drum up support. White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer, speaking on CNN Tuesday, noted that while Congress did not take up Obama’s call last year for a minimum wage hike, many states did.


The Progressive Change Institute co-founder Adam Green said Americans are ready for bold economic populist ideas based on a recent national poll of 1,500 likely voters. The poll, conducted by GBA Strategies, found that 59 percent support raising the income tax rate to 50 percent for those earning more than $1 million. It also found that 63 percent support providing two years of free community college.


"The public isn’t only on his side, they want Washington, D.C., to go even further in the economic populist direction he’s heading," Green said.


Obama is proposing two free years of community college that would be paid for via a state-federal partnership. The $80 billion cost over 10 years would be split, with the federal government paying $60 billion and states $20 billion.


Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Obama’s proposal would result in $320 billion in new taxes over the next decade.


Raising the capital gains and dividends tax rate to 28 percent represents a "massive hike" given that the rate was 15 percent when Obama took office, he said. The proposal also includes a change in the estate tax that could be harmful to many middle-class families through a change in capital gains paid when inherited property is sold, he said.


The Arkansas House delegation was also skeptical of Obama’s proposals.


"It is hard for me to take the president’s talk of strengthening the middle class seriously, when he proposes tax increases on college savings accounts that benefit the middle class," said Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs. "Increasing taxes, coupled with promises to veto legislation promoting energy price stability and restoring the 40-hour work week, shows me that he is simply continuing to talk out of both sides of his mouth."


The White House says the president’s plan reforms the education tax system by consolidating six overlapping education provisions into just two and providing students up to $2,500 a year toward completing a college degree. His plan cuts taxes for 8.5 million families and students and simplifies taxes for the more than 25 million families and students that claim education tax benefits.


"Higher taxes, more spending, bigger government, and no real effort to address the issues vital to job creation and deficits and debt reduction. Like his budgets, these speeches just aren’t realistic," said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers.


"The tax plan presented in the State of the Union Address follows the same tax-and-spend pattern we’re used to hearing about, but it didn’t address our debt of $18 trillion as well as our looming interest-rate crisis," said Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro. The American people deserve to hear the downsides of not addressing national security and our debt crisis, but tonight they heard neither."